Photo essay: dassies living on the edge

Photo essay: dassies living on the edge

Dassies are fascinating creatures. Even though they are tiny by comparison, their closest relative is the African elephant. But they look confusingly like guinea pigs and rabbits, which brings us to the next question: if it is a herd of elephants, a gaggle of geese and a school of fish, what is the collective name for dassies?

image Dassies huddle for warmth on cold days. Photo courtesy of arbitraryuser

While you ponder that, the Dassie Walk is of course named after the dassie, which roams freely on the mountain. The little animal can often be seen sunning itself on the most precarious of rocks and ledges on the mountain, particularly in the mornings and evenings.

image Being warmed by the sun. Photo courtesy of rogersmithpix

Their bodies do not regulate temperature very well, which means, just like reptiles, they have to sun themselves get warm, and on cold days they huddle to keep warm. Up to 95 percent of their day is used to laze around in the sun. Their diet mostly consists of leaves, plants and the occasional insect, and they can go for long periods without water as they get most of their liquid intake from their diet. While their front incisors resemble tusks, they don’t use it to chew their food. Dassies can also climb trees and have been known to wander into gardens to climb, so that they can enjoy the leaves.

image A lone dassie enjoys the view. Photo courtesy of Iferneinez

Special rubbery pads with sweat glands on the soles of their short feet are important for heat loss and provide the dassie with remarkable traction on rock surfaces. The padded soles and the tusk-like incisors are indications of their ancestral ties to elephants.

image Living on the edge. Photo courtesy of ebatty

They live in colonies and while they forage, a sentry is posted to alert the others to approaching predators. Dassies can make about 21 different sounds, and to warn of an approaching enemy they emit a shrill sound. Their predators include eagles, puff adders and leopards, which once roamed the mountain.

image A group of dassies catch some sunshine. Photo courtesy of Miros Photography

And in case you were still wondering, the collective name for a group of dassies is a colony.

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